cf #51: are you making my same career mistake?

You are reading contentfolks—a fortnightly blend of sticky notes, big content ideas, and small practical examples. Thank you for being here! ~fio

Hey 👋

If you’re anything like me, you like “The biggest mistake I made when doing X”-style articles—not because you enjoy other people’s failures, but because these pieces usually have practical advice about what to do, avoid, or change when you find yourself in a specific situation.

This month, it’s been two years since I left my job as Senior Editor at Hotjar, and to mark the occasion here is the biggest career mistake I made while there: not building a network of peers and mentors from day one.

Right after joining Hotjar in 2017, I spent the first year deeply immersed in the product, the company, and the industry. I built great relationships with coworkers within and outside of the marketing team, finding content allies in every department.

My internal network grew remarkably strong.
My external one stayed small.

Sure, I read a lot of newsletters and articles from content folks whose work I liked and trusted, but rarely followed up with them in person. My partner-in-content at Hotjar (hey Louis 👋) ran a very successful podcast, and I got great ideas from his guests without having to talk to anyone myself. We occasionally collaborated with great consultants and coaches, though almost always as a team.

As the months went on, we kept making progress, the company was supportive of our work, I even got promoted—and because things were going well, it was hard to spot the mistake I’d been making:

I was so focused on serving the team at Hotjar that I hadn’t spent much time exchanging notes and ideas with external people. I knew exactly who to go to whenever I needed Hotjar-related help, but had almost no content peers I could ping on a random Tuesday to ask for support or an unbiased opinion when I was stuck or unsure of what to do.

When you live inside a company bubble, it’s easy to ignore the world outside of it.

If I could go back to early 2017, I’d give myself this piece of advice: set time aside every week to build 1:1 connections with the people in your field. Share knowledge with folks who are junior to you, get tactical help (and moral support) from peers at the same-ish seniority level, and ask for advice from mentors who are way ahead of you.

There are a ton of relationship-building and networking resources out there (this is one I often recommend), though in the end it was two simple things that made all the difference:

  1. Asking someone you already know for introductions → Louis had a ton of contacts, so he generously put me in touch with the people he thought I should talk to. Later, I started asking these new content peers to put me in touch with others they knew and thought I should talk to—and haven’t stopped since.

  2. Joining a content community → I joined the Slack group at Superpath and started sharing resources and opinions; I also read a lot of the advice that more senior folks were posting, asking follow-up questions and making plans for how to put their ideas into practice. Every once in a while, public threads move to private conversations and even into 1:1 calls; now, I know exactly who to ping on a random Tuesday when I need content advice!

When you get consumed with keeping the content machine running, you might forget the bigger picture of where you, as a practitioner, are going.
I hope this newsletter was a useful reminder, and that you will be inspired to build a 1:1 connection with someone in your field today 😉